The Narcolepsy Disability Page

The most common questions asked about Narcolepsy….

The disability narcolepsy is not a common disorder.  It isn’t often discussed by laymen or in public media.  There is little information about it that is presented in an easy to understand, non-technical format.  To give a diagnosis of narcolepsy, need to be considered.

What are the signs of Narcolepsy?

There are several signs of Narcolepsy.

  • Narcolepsy disability causes cataplexy. Cataplexy is a sudden loss of control while awake, which can be triggered by strong emotions such as laughing or crying. Attacks can happen at any time of the day.
  • Another sign of narcoleptic disability is hallucinations. Some individuals that have been diagnosed with disability sometimes experience vivid, sometimes frightening, visual sensations while falling asleep or while awakening.
  • Another sign of Narcolepsy is sleep paralysis. The side effect of sleep paralysis can cause some narcoleptic individuals to unable to move or talk during the beginning or the end of sleep.
  • A fourth sign of Narcolepsy is micro sleep.  Micro sleep is a very brief episode of sleep which you continue to function and then awake with no memories of the activity which you had pursued.
  •  Another sign of Narcolepsy is called nighttime wakefulness. Individuals who suffer with Narcolepsy may periodically suffer of wakefulness at night, and could have hot flashes, elevated heart rate, and sometime strong feelings of alertness.
  • The last sign of Narcolepsy, rapid entry into REM sleep. Narcoleptic individuals have unique sleep patterns. People who are diagnosed with this disability tend to enter the REM stage or dream phase of sleep right after falling asleep. Whereas, most people who do not have Narcolepsy tend to enter the REM stage after about an hour and a half of sleep.

Is Narcolepsy really a disability?

Yes, Narcolepsy is legally considered to be a disability. The reason that the Narcoleptic disorder is considered to be a disability is because it causes significant difficulty in maintaining a normal lifestyle, including school, work and relationships. There is currently no available cure Narcolepsy. From case to case the severity of the narcoleptic disorder varies. This disorder is treated with a number of medications, therapies, and changes of one’s lifestyle. Many who are diagnosed with Narcolepsy must take frequent naps throughout the day; therefore it is difficult to complete daily tasks.

Is the disability in narcolepsy curable?

No, Narcolepsy is not curable. Though there are several medications and therapies these unfortunately are not cure to the disorder of Narcolepsy.  A patient diagnosed with narcolepsy will have to come to terms that the disease will be a constant companion for the rest of his or her life.

Are there any sleep disorders that are mistaken as Narcoleptic Disability?

Yes, there are several sleep disorders that are mistaken to be Narcolepsy, but there are only a few that are most commonly mistaken for each other. The disorders that are mistaken as Narcolepsy are OSA also called Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Another sleep disorder that is mistaken to be Narcolepsy is called Periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD) instead of the limb paralysis most people experience during deep sleep; these patients have occasional, involuntary limb movements.

Both of these disorders can cause SOREM, or sleep onset rapid eye movement and EDS Excessive Daytime Sleepiness.  Which are decidedly traits found in the disability on narcolepsy.

What is the difference between Narcolepsy and other sleep disorders?

The difference between Narcolepsy and Obstructive Sleep Apnea is that Obstructive Sleep Apnea is the name for the condition that causes snoring, or holding your breath.  A patient diagnosed with sleep apnea stops breathing periodically throughout the night. The disorder commonly isn’t recognized until the age of forty, and symptoms usually occur five years before they are ever recognized.

Another difference between the two of these disorders is naps. Individuals diagnosed with Narcolepsy have reported that with a fifteen to twenty minute nap they feel refreshed. Whereas, an individual diagnosed with Obstructive Sleep Apnea has not reported feeling refreshed after a fifteen to twenty minute nap as a matter of fact in some cases have reported to feel worse.

Insomnia can cause many similar symptoms to narcolepsy but it is easily treated with the help night time tranquilizers. When a person does not sleep for several days, they will experience: hallucinations, EDS and sleep attacks.

What causes this sleep disability and narcolepsy symptoms?

No one is sure what causes narcolepsy.  There are plenty of theories.  Some specialists believe that it is inherited, but there are rarely instances of narcolepsy within a family.  The theory that narcolepsy is caused by a past disease or infection has more credence, but insufficient supporting evidence.

The current theory being entertained is that narcolepsy is an autoimmune disease.  Scientists are tracing the origins of the disease in the body and developing a portrait of the actions, this will hopefully lead not only a cause but to a cure.

What Are the Treatment options for Narcolepsy?

Narcolepsy and disability from its symptoms are usually attacked on several fronts.  There are both lifestyle changes and drug therapies that are effective in treating this disorder.

Lifestyle changes include:

  • Stringent bedtime routine
  • Strategic day time naps
  • Careful food choices
  • Avoid  OTC stimulants and depressants

Drug therapies include:

  • Drugs for EDS and insomnia treatments
    • Methylphenidate
    • Amphetamine
    • Modafinil
    • Selegiline (also anti-cataplectic)
  • Drugs for cataplexy
    • Sodium oxybate (gamma-hydroxybutyric acid)
    • Protriptyline
    • Desipramine
    • Imipramine
    • Clomipramine
    • Venlafaxine
    • Duloxetine
    • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors

Carefully following these guidelines on management of narcolepsy, a patient can often live a pretty normal lifestyle and control its symptoms. To get extra help, there are internet message board and live people at support groups.

  • Tam Kozman

    The post states: “There are several signs of Narcolepsy. Narcolepsy disability causes cataplexy.” It is important to note that only around 65% of people with narcolepsy experience the symptom cataplexy – it does not have to be present for a person to be diagnosed with narcolepsy.

  • Tam Kozman

    The post says “Narcolepsy is legally considered to be a disability.” Unfortunately, in the U.S., it is *not* on the official list of disorders eligible for disability benefits, no matter how debilitating it is for a particular person. The severity of symptoms, by the way, varies widely from person to person.

  • Reta

    I have narcolepsy with cataplexy & diagnosed at the age of 50 after years of knowing something was not right then was fired from my job it took 2 years to get disability after 20 years I still struggle with it on a daily basis it is a life changing disorder .

    • Joan Steppe-Kandler

      I too have narcolepsy with cataplexy. I was diagnosed 22 years ago at the age of 30 after years of knowing something was very wrong with me. For the past 13 years I have been self-employed, having the ability to pick and choose when and where I would work on an almost daily basis. As I am now in my early 50′s, I’m having a harder time managing my symptoms. There are several days each week where I no longer feel confident enough to drive and I also am having a much harder time staying focused for any length of time. For this reason, I am contemplating applying for disability. I was hoping that you might be willing to pass along some pointers on streamlining the application process. Please let me know if you might aid a fellow “sleepyhead” in need.

  • De.mann

    Hi, I was diagnosed with Narcolepsy aged 35, now at 42 going on 43, eight years later yet my whole world is still upside down. Life till then overflowed with work activities, social engagements, business travel, holidays, family, friends, goals, ambition, dreams and so on.
    Today, in 2015, I can sincerely admit to myself that I can not hold a thought without forgetting it if put under the slightest pressure. I can not dream because sleep to me is simply fainting from which I abruptly wake still needing rest. Because when I reams I do remember during sleep is always so vivid (you believe its really happening so you act it out and even talk (mumble)


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